By Phil Ellenbecker
Now here’s one to tell the grandkids.
About your one game in major league baseball. Your one inning.
When Phil Mudrock, after having spent seven seasons in the minor leagues, was summoned to pitch in the eighth inning for the Chicago Cubs at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on April 19, 1963, he was beginning and ending his major league career. He gave up two hits and one run, earned.
And then the Cubs broke up the shutout in ninth, on a double by Lou Brock, who would be infamously traded to the St. Louis Cardinals next year. And then Juan Marichal retired the next two batters to end the game and even his record at 1-1 en route to a 25-8 season.
And that was that for Mudrock in the show. He finished the season in the minor leagues at the AAA level, compiling a 6-13 record with a 3.95 ERA. He was 2-4 in AAA with a 5.70 ERA in 1964. In ’65 he had a 6.00 ERA in AAA with no decision in two games and six innings. Then he was done with professional baseball.
But Mudrock left baseball knowing that he had cracked the major leagues for one inning, and in that one inning he faced five batters, and three of those batters ended up in the Hall of Fame. And the other two weren’t too shabby.
And you know what? He didn’t fare too shabbily.
The first batter Mudrock faced in relief of Bob Will was Jim Davenport, no Hall of Famer but a solid 13-year player and twice an All-Star. He doubled to right field.
Next came none other than the legendary Willie Mays, who grounded out to shortstop, with Davenport advancing to third base.
Hall Famer No. 2 was up next, and Willie McCovey made the score 5-0 by singling to right to score Davenport. McCovey moved to second on a balk by Mudrock.
(Phil was perhaps victimized by a crackdown on balks in the National League this year, in which 20 balks were called in the first 20 games. Six days earlier, Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend was called for a record four balks. Bob Shaw broke the record with five balks in a game May 4, including three in one inning, also a record.)
After McCovey came Hall of Famer No. 3, Orlando Cepeda, who grounded out to third.
Next was Felipe Alou, who before becoming a distinguished manager put together a distinguished 17-year career that included three All-Star selections. He ended the inning by grounding out to second.
So in his inning of work Mudrock retired two of three Hall of Famers.
He left a final ERA of 9.00 in the record books, but an asterisk has to be attached to that considering whom it came against.
Perhaps if you stop in at Mudrock’s Tap & Tavern in Louisville, Colorado, where Mudrock is from, you might run into Phil, and he can tell you how he stared down the likes of Mays and Cepeda. Perhaps. The establishment’s website mentions Phil and the town’s baseball heritage, but it doesn’t say Mudrock is a presence there, nor do the reviews, which are mixed.
But it looks like they have pretty good food there and a wide selection of beers. And if you do happen to run into Phil, I bet he’d be glad to tell you about the time he faced the Willies and Orlando, and Felipe and Jim.
April 19, 1963 game, Phil Mudrock’s record: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1963/B04190SFN1963.htm
Balk info: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/rb_balk1.shtml; “Balks: An Illustrative & Quantitative History,” http://davidventuri.com/blog/balks
Mudrock’s Tap & Tavern: http://mudrockstapandtavern.com/; https://www.yelp.com/biz/mudrocks-tap-and-tavern-louisville